December 22, 2014

Black: God 'Texting me' Gave Shutdown Prayers

Senate Chaplain, Oakwood alumn spoke at school's preaching conference

Posted December 17, 2013

BY JYREMY REID and TIM ALLSTON, Oakwood University, reporting from Huntsville, Alabama

Heralded in some media outlets as the only “hero” of the 16-day U.S. federal government shutdown, U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black told Seventh-day Adventist pastors Sunday, December 8, 2013 their church “is sleeping through a revolution.”

“And the reason why we are not experiencing the miracles that God would have us experience, is because we’re not prepared to speak the truth to power,” he admonished the nearly 1,000 attendees at the 34th annual Pastoral Evangelism & Leadership Council (PELC), held at Oakwood University in Huntsville, Alabama. It is believed to be the world church’s largest annual gathering of pastors. He added, “If you’re going to prepare for a miracle where leprosy disappears, you’ve got to speak the truth to power.”

Black gained international attention for his searing, no-holds-barred invocations opening each Senate session during that October congressional stalemate; Black’s bowtie-wearing, non-partisan baritone eloquence was later parodied on TV’s “Saturday Night Live.”

Addressing, “Preparing for a Miracle, by speaking Truth to Power” Black, the first Adventist and African American to serve as Senate chaplain, centered his 25-minute message on 2 Kings 5, pinpointing four persons who spoke truth to Syrian commander Naaman: Mrs. Naaman’s maid, the prophet Elisha, his servant and Naaman’s aide-de-camp.

“There are people who are speaking out, and speaking out prophetically, but we often are not,” he told his colleagues at the Oakwood University church. “We need relevant truth, and present truth is relevant if we recognize what is going on in the world around us. You pray with relevancy and you preach with relevancy.

“If there had been Adventist ministers alongside Martin [Luther] King, . . . if there had been Adventist pastors in (apartheid) South Africa, . . . There need to be Adventist ministers who will speak out against some of the really touchy issues, because people are listening for a prophetic word; but too often, we’re bringing up the rear.

“There are powerful people who are experiencing pain and we need to have people who would speak the truth to power; and Elisha did. We need to be prepared to speak the truth to power because our silence prevents us from opening the eyes of the blind.

“As Christians, we soon come to realize that the world isn’t waiting on those individuals who are fragile and of weak heart. No, the world needs those ‘who are not afraid to call sin (out) by its right name.’ Where are you, men of courage? The world is looking those who are going to stand up for what is right, and speak the truth into power,” concluding, “We need to speak the truth into power because there is pain that accompanies power.”

PELC director-turned-interviewer Dr. Jesse Wilson queried the retired two-star admiral to critique his characterization on “Saturday Night Live.” With a quick grin, he posited, “Kenan Thompson did a good job, . . . needed to lower his voice to more baritone, not tenor, . . . a tad-bit irreverent, but funny, and God told me to just ‘lighten up’!”

Wilson asked, “How did you put together those Senate prayers? Did you anticipate the (media) response?”

Black, quoting Luke 11:13, said, “Every morning on my way to Capitol Hill, I have an encounter with the Holy Spirit, and God would text messages into my heart.”

For example that prayer:

  • “Lord, save us from the madness” was not my words; God texted me;
  • “Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on faraway battlefields, it's time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough” – again, not my words; God texted me.

He added, “When the Holy Ghost sends a text, it’ll make the news!”

Jyremy Reed is a student photojournalist at Oakwood University; Tim Allston is his mentor and director of public relations at Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama, USA

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